I went to see THE DARK TOWER so you wouldn't have to [a review]:

Last weekend, I saw Atomic Blonde (I know this is a review for The Dark Tower, hang with me for a minute).

Atomic Blonde was rated R as it should have been. If you're not in America, R means the movie is for mature audiences only. Atomic Blonde lived up to every one of my expectations, and when it comes out on DVD, I'm going to buy it so I can watch it again.

When I saw The Dark Tower was rated as PG-13, I lowered my expectations for the film, and here's why:

The Dark Tower novels were brutal, just as brutal, if not more so, than the story in Atomic Blonde. Susannah's story-line alone is horrific and that is all before she ever lands in Roland's world. The PG-13 rating said that the studio wanted a movie directed toward preteens and marketing and games and toys and that is precisely what the movie is. 

Being an urban fantasy does NOT make it a bad movie. I imagine a lot of the younger members of the audience enjoyed it immensely. As a matter of fact, from a story perspective, it was a very good movie. It simply bears only a passing resemblance to the novels.

Idris Elba as Roland was the best part. If you want to go and support this movie so that you see him in more leading roles, your money won't be wasted. He captured Roland's gravitas and his rare moments of amusement. While Elba gave the most nuanced performance in the film, his co-star Tom Taylor was also excellent as Jake Chambers. He and Elba had a lovely chemistry that really carried the film.

And while the film worked as a coming of age story, the movie failed for fans of the series, because The Dark Tower is really about Roland, not Jake. By changing the protagonist from Roland to Jake, the horror is replaced by wonder, and it's all sort of like the Wizard of Oz, but with gunslingers and creepy monsters and the Man in Black.

King gave Satan/Death a corporeal form in the Man in Black, and in doing so, he gave flesh to the evil that walks among us. The movie gives us the Man in Black as a Cruella de Vil caricature intent on slaughtering preteens instead of puppies. Somehow I never imagined the Man in Black to be quite that organized and operating from a command central. His was always a more subtle menace as the chaos that wanders among us. The movie robs him of that role, and in doing so, gives Matthew McConaughey's character very little to do other than walk around and be nasty to people.

If they ever do an R version of The Dark Tower and have McConaughey reprise the role, I'll be on the front row, popcorn in hand.

The plot proceeded smoothly from point to point, sometimes too smoothly. I never felt a great deal of tension, but the cast was great, and I was never bored. There was a lot of shooting; however, I found the violence in Wonder Woman to be far more intense than anything I experienced in The Dark Tower. There was also a nice little nod to Pennywise about midway through, wink, wink, nudge, nudge, coming soon to a theater near you. 

Overall, I enjoyed The Dark Tower movie as a light urban fantasy. However, if you're looking for something with guts, read the books.

Shadow of the Vampire--another spoilerific movie review (#SFWApro)

When I wrote my review of Snowpiecer, Kate Elliott made an interesting comment. She said, "Most of my trouble with this film as I watched it came about because I went in with expectations that it was going to be a science fiction film about what it would be like to live on Earth after the world froze, and it is actually (as you so carefully discuss here) an entirely different film."

I experienced the same feeling with Shadow of the Vampire. I initially went into the film with the mindset that the movie was horror (thank you, Netflix, for that erroneous marketing) ...

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Snowpiercer ... here there be spoilers (#SFWApro)



Oh hell, who am I kidding? Everyone has already seen this movie. As usual, I'm the last one to the party, because NO CAPTIONS AVAILABLE at the theater, and haven't we all heard THAT song enough times, so I won't sing it again here.

If you haven't seen Snowpiercer, turn back now. Go watch the movie, then return to discuss it, or not, whatever pleases you. This is your last chance ... okay, you were warned.

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Solomon Kane

Okay, I'm late to the party, nothing new there in regards to films. I have a hearing impairment and have to wait for the closed captioning that accompanies DVDs and Netflix streaming. Solomon Kane was released in 2009. I've heard that purists had hissy fits that it wasn't a replica of the Robert E. Howard stories, and I honestly don't remember hearing anything about the movie at all.

Complete dead air (as we used to say in the radio business).

All anyone talked about in 2009 was District 9. I succumbed to everyone's praise and got the DVD to District 9 for Christmas. My daughter and I watched it together and both of us thought that the storyline was flawed, and the movie itself fell back on trite Hollywoodish themes. District 9 was the last time I listened to the genre community for movie recommendations.

As a matter of fact, I'd been disappointed so many times that I pretty much gave up on genre movies for a while, but like any addict, I can't quit them forever.

A few weeks ago, I wandered through a local store, looking for something new to watch, and I saw the container for Solomon Kane. All I knew about the movie was that Ramsey Campbell had been tapped to write the novelization, and that is the only thing that made me stop and consider buying it. Then I remembered seeing it on the Netflix list. Having been burned by bad genre films one time too many, I thought I'd check it out on Netflix first.

I had no expectations whatsoever. Okay, that's a lie. My expectations were so low, my finger hovered over the stop button so I could back out and watch something else the minute that I got too bored. I'm not kidding.

The movie opens with Kane storming a castle. Kane is played by James Purefoy (he of Mark Antony fame in the HBO series Rome). He leads his men into the castle and through a hall of mirrors. Demons swarm behind the glass, really nasty-lovely demons. When I imagine demons, this is what I see. A teensy piece of me loved that moment and I suddenly wanted this movie to succeed.

I'm an old skeptic though, and although I was certain this movie would eventually disappoint me, I decided to hang with it for a while longer.

Some of the dialogue is corny. Purefoy delivers it like it's Shakespeare. The defining moment for me came when Kane looks up at the sky and questions God. I sneered, because I knew this was it--this was the moment when I developed the giggles over corny lines and bad acting and hit that stop button out of sheer self-defence ... and that moment never came.

Purefoy's angst and honesty were just so real that he wiped that sneer right off my mouth. I settled in for the movie and I was not disappointed.

James Purefoy's portrayal of Kane as a self-interested treasure hunter to Kane the man who seeks redemption to avoid Hell's fires was exquisite. His acting was so subtle that the viewer has a hard time pinpointing the exact moment when those two extremes merge into a wonderfully complex characterization. Max von Sydow was beautiful and tragic as Kane's father. The entire cast was comprised of fine acting, dark scenes, magnificent special effects. I've watched Solomon Kane twice now, and I still jump when the demon flashes out of a mirror to snatch a sailor into Hell. I know it's coming, but the scene is so well executed, it takes me by surprise every time.

Oh, and did I mention that James Purefoy can really rock a pilgrim hat?

I so thoroughly enjoyed Solomon Kane that I'm going to buy the DVD and watch it again.

Check it out: